FBI documents released Monday by the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project flagged popular internet slang terms as potential indicators of “involuntary celibate violent extremism” and “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism.” The documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Internet slang terms used by many conservatives, like “red pill” and “based,” appeared in the FBI’s list. The term “red pill” comes from the 1999 film “The Matrix” and is often used metaphorically to represent seeing hidden or politically incorrect truths about the modern world. However, the FBI’s glossary defines it as “a belief shared by many online communities that society is corrupt and that the believer is a victim of this corruption.”
The following sentence now gets FBI attention: "A based chad who took a red pill whil larping," FBI documents associate internet slang like 'based' and 'red pill' with 'extremism' https://t.co/SfOQDj7iMt #FoxNews
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) April 10, 2023
“Based” is defined by the FBI as someone who has converted to racist ideology or as indicating ideological agreement. In reality, “based” is a context-specific term originating from rapper Lil B that can mean anything from “agreeable” and “cool” to “anti-woke.”
The documents also discussed “incels” or involuntary celibates, describing them as individuals who might resort to violence to support their belief that society unfairly denies them romantic or sexual attention. Although most incels are not violent, the documents note at least five lethal attacks involving “incels” in the U.S. and Canada.
NEW: Docs we obtained show how @FBI equates protected online speech to violence.
— Oversight Project (@OversightPR) April 3, 2023
Many terms included in the FBI’s glossary focus on modern dating challenges and self-improvement. For instance, “Chad” is defined as an idealized version of a male who successfully attracts female attention. At the same time, “Looksmaxxing” is the process of self-improvement to become more attractive. Other terms on the list, such as “heightcel” and “baldcel,” indicate self-pity rather than violence.
The FBI’s list of terms connected to “Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism” (RMVE) also included a mix of extreme and innocuous labels. For example, the term “LARPing,” initially used for live-action roleplay, appears on the list with a political context, deriding individuals accused of not being as extreme or skilled as they claim.
Critics argue that the FBI’s inclusion of these slang terms in their glossary represents an overreach and potential infringement upon free speech. This recent revelation raises concerns about whether the FBI is expanding its policing efforts to monitor everyday language, which may run counter to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution’s protection of free speech.
It is crucial to examine the potential implications of these documents and ensure that the balance between maintaining security and respecting individual liberties is not disrupted. As the internet continues to evolve, so must the understanding and evaluation of language, ensuring that the focus remains on genuine threats rather than misinterpreting or overanalyzing popular slang.